Thumbing back through the guidebook to remember what we did, I notice how very warped and wrinkled the Helsinki pages are. It rained for almost all of our time in Helsinki, but we still found it to be a delightful city.
We got quite waterlogged exploring the city by tram and on foot. The harbor area was my favorite. On our one sunny morning we had a breakfast of coffee and Finnish pastries while people-watching at the dockside outdoor market. The nearby indoor market was fun, too. Lots of reindeer jerky.
I also loved the Kiasma Museum, which contains an impressive mix of contemporary Finnish and European art.
What else? We took in a couple churches, such as the rocky Temppeliaukio Kirkko, but otherwise we didn’t do all that much touristy stuff in Helsinki, opting instead to wander around and soak up the atmosphere. It had a good city vibe.
We passed on the beef together, and we also resisted the temptation to buy boots with flames and metal spikes. But just barely.
Kynsilaukka – a garlic-themed restaurant: what’s not to love?
Bar Tapasta – a crowded and quirky little place with yummy, reasonably-priced tapas and friendly service.
Texas – I’m almost ashamed to admit we ate here, but the veggie tacos were impressively good (hey, decent Tex-Mex is hard to come by in Europe!).
We stayed in two different accommodations in Helsinki, both of which seemed like great deals for such an expensive city. The first was the 4-star Crowne Plaza Hotel, which offers significantly discounted weekend deals. The deal didn’t include breakfast, but it did include use of the sauna, pool, and fitness center. On our second pass through the city we stayed in a StayAt apartment. The apartment was clean and new, and the kitchen was decently stocked with cooking implements. We made our own dinners there, which was great because 1) it saved money and 2) it gave me a reason to buy stuff in grocery stores. I love hanging out in grocery stores in new countries; it’s even better when I get to eat stuff from them.
Finland: Useful Travel Websites
Finland as a whole is a very easy country to travel. Public transportation is efficient and modern. English is widely spoken (except by bus drivers, apparently), although Swedish is often the second language on signs. We could tell the difference between Swedish and Finnish based on whether we could glean any meaning out of the words: Swedish was similar enough to German for us to be able to get the gist most of the time, but Finnish was utterly unrecognizable. At least it was fun to listen to.
VR – Finnish Railway – useful schedule and other information for trains around Finland.
Viking Line – ships between Finland, Sweden, and Estonia.
Tallink – the other large company running ships between Finland, Sweden, and Estonia.